Recruiters Need to Follow Through

Mar 17, 2011
photo: Deputado Bruno Covas

As a recruiter (whether retained, contingent, corporate, executive search, or independent), there is “No Acceptable Excuse” for not following up or following through with a candidate.

By failing to do so, your actions are contributing to the further erosion of the reputation of our profession and are fueling the negative perceptions presently associated with recruiters.

Would you ever not follow up with your client or employer? Hell no! After all, the client is generally the proverbial “pot of gold” derived from a successful placement. Would you not give them a status report? What if the client is the hiring manager/decision-maker who expects you to find the right candidate, and you fail to follow up to inquire about their acceptance of a candidate that you presented? What if the client is actually your employer and your future is contingent upon your performance in your role as a recruiter? If you answered NO to any of these questions, why then would it ever be permissible to not follow up with your candidate?

I’ve read numerous articles about lack of follow up by recruiters and have listened to hours of disgruntled deliberation from job seekers and candidates alike who have encountered the likes of those recruiters who practice this irresponsible behavior. I’ve also responded to numerous communications and correspondence with candidates who are asking me why these behaviors are condoned in the industry.

I therefore ask myself why they can’t have the same expectation of follow up that anyone would require from their doctor. Let’s take a look at this process for a second.

It’s Like Physician Follow Up

Being pre-screened, participating in an initial qualifying interview by a recruiter, and/or waiting to hear if you have been accepted for a position can be equated to going into your doctor for an annual physical or check up. S/he conducts a series of Q&A (fact finding), inquires about your history (experience) and overall health (qualifications), conducts some preliminary tests (personality and skill assessments), diagnoses your symptoms (evaluates), sends off the tests for review and analysis (decision maker review), and schedules a follow up appointment if necessary (second interview).

While you are in the office the doctor indicates that s/he has performed specific tests as s/he believes it will help to further explore/rule out potential concerns (qualifying criteria). Your doctor says that s/he will be back to you in about two days to advise you of the test results (client or decision maker ruling).

You’re nervous — consumed with the desire to know the outcome of the test (first interview). You wait desperately to hear if you will need to come back to the doctor’s office for a follow up visit (second interview)! You’re anxiously awaiting the results as promised from your doctor or his/her office. Days and days go by without any communication so you leave several follow up calls and messages. Yet it appears that your doctor’s priorities are not aligned with your personal need for answers or closure. This is your health (career/ future), after all. Don’t you deserve to know the outcome of your efforts from the professional that you selected to deal with?

I like to call this torture “TLS,” or The Limbo Status. Put yourselves in your candidates’ shoes. How would this make you feel? Probably stressed enough to go see your doctor!

When someone applies for a home loan, a new car, a credit card, or countless other scenarios, these organizations and their representatives are expected to follow up with the applicant to advise them if they were approved or failed to qualify. Why then do some recruiters feel they are absolved from this critical and essential responsibility?

In Their Shoes

Don’t believe for a moment that the candidates are not taking note and know which recruiters fall into this category. They know who you are based on their experience working with you! And trust me: they talk amongst themselves just like recruiters do.

Someone once wrote to me asking if there was such thing as a blacklist for candidates. The case presented was a candidate who failed to accept a position that recruiter “A” represented them on and ended up taking a different opportunity from recruiter “B.” Recruiter “A” threatened the candidate, indicating to the candidate that they were placing them on the blacklist! Threatening that no other recruiter would ever represent them going forward because they were on “The LIST!” You’re kidding me, right? Do some recruiters actually use these tactics on their candidates? Has our profession really fallen to this level?

Here’s the danger: The same could hold true for candidates. They could easily (and some already have!) start a blacklist of recruiters who fail to provide common courtesy in the execution of their profession. How many future referrals would be received, how long would a recruiter stay in their role or be in business without respect from the candidate community?

An industry colleague of mine and renowned author of The Savage Truth, Greg Savage, recently coined the following phrase in an article he wrote: “Recruitment — it’s not speed-dating.

Greg is correct. Candidates do not want to participate in a quick data mining process or sourcing tactic merely to enable achievement of uploading their information for use at a later time. Candidates want to work with recruiters who:

  • Have the time to establish a long-term relationship,
  • Fully understand their skills,
  • Have actual open reqs that may match their skills set, and
  • Will follow up with them accordingly.

Candidates expect honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior from those whom they elect to represent them on their job search. Recruiters should not enter into a relationship with candidates under false pretenses. If you don’t have a legitimate opportunity or the candidates skills are not a match, tell them. At minimum, send an email, pick up the phone, or a toss a carrier pigeon into flight with a post-it note strapped to its leg. Something, anything that even remotely resembles following up!

We’re Not All The Same

Let me be very clear that this is not about all recruiters. It represents a small percentage of shingle-hanging “self-appointed recruiters” who, now that their sign is hung and they’ve secured free business cards (ordered from Vistaprint), proclaim to the world, “Hey look at me. I’m a recruiter.”

In my humble opinion, I find that a healthy percentage of these recruiters fall into a few categories. The first are former recruiters who may have only dabbled in or were new to the industry but were downsized and decided to go into business for themselves. The second set of recruiters, for whom I still hold out a good deal of hope, may simply have never been properly taught, coached, or mentored in the critical skills required to be an effective and professional recruiter. Or perhaps they were trained, but have just failed to continue applying those learned skills in their present capacity as an independent. The final and newest group I’m uncovering are those shingle-hangers who aren’t even from the industry, who may have seen an ad on the Internet or a social networking site suggesting that recruiting was an easy fun and a quick money maker. These are the most damaging of all in this performance-critical industry.

Recruiters I’m referring to need to accept the responsibility and take ownership of their profession and the service offering they provide to the candidate community. If they are not willing to do so, perhaps they should consider finding a new career opportunity — one in which they will not be held accountable, one where they will not have any responsibility to build, foster, or maintain relationships, or be required to have those difficult follow-up discussions with their candidates. A new career where they will no longer serve as a detriment to the profession! Perhaps a submarine screen door manufacturer.

The time for this practice to stop is now, the time to start making a difference is NOW!

There are countless unemployed Americans today who are reliant upon your professional expertise, assistance with, and representation for a limited number of available jobs.

Many of these displaced, downsized Americans have not had to actively pursue a new career for a decade or longer. They are no longer well versed in the technology available, have not architected a technically savvy resume, and do not have a clue on where to start in this highly competitive landscape. Candidates should not have the added burden of enduring the lack of professional courtesy from those who are in the profession of helping others find work. They have enough on their mind with trying to secure gainful employment in their field so that they can keep their home and provide for their families.

Change your behavior, change your attitude, and send a resounding message to the candidate community that you are one of the elite recruiting professionals who have taken ownership and responsibility in your trade. Follow up persistently and consistently, and with the belief that for this single moment, you are equally as important as the family physician. Here’s to your health, and to that of the recruiting industry.

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